Today’s Sermon: Thank God, Not Sales

Thanksgiving Day, not “Black Thursday.”

Matthew 6:19-24

The Thanksgiving Holiday has at least 3 possible origins. We are all familiar with the story of the pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a feast during the harvest before winter in the Massachusetts Colony. Some die-hard Virginia historians believe the first such celebration had to have taken place in or near Jamestown. During the Civil War, it was said that Abraham Lincoln instituted the day of giving thanks to God. The Union forces called a cease-fire and the Confederates followed suit. One thing is for certain. That the final Thursday in November was to be set aside to show gratitude for the things we have and the people in our lives. The holiday was designed to go beyond denominational borders as anyone could accept a day to giving thanks to God. I dare venture to say that even the Buddhist, Jew, Muslim, or anyone else of any other faith can accept such a national holiday. By tradition, Thanksgiving was a day off for everyone. Except for those who provide needed health and safety services, we would all have that day off, or at least, half the day off.
The concept of being grateful to God for what we have and the people in our lives has been deteriorating for quite some time. Now, it has reached a new low. Major retailers and other shopping outlets will be open for Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving Day. Many of us disdain the midnight and early bird sales on “Black Friday” and consumerism gone haywire (people who can barely make it to work on time or make it to church at all staying up all hours of the night to buy stuff). This is a slap in the face of our history as the retailers are showing impatience to earn money. It is a calloused view of humanity as shoppers demand that retail employees separate themselves from their families and friends to serve them on a day designed for rest. Even though it is shopping for the day we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, none of the advertisements and marketing strategies used for these Thanksgiving Day sales have anything to do with the Christian faith. What we have isn’t good enough. So let’s go and buy stuff on a day that we know many people aren’t working. Hmmmm … So, corporate America says that our days that aren’t spent earning money should be spent spending money. Who cares about rest and worship? There are more cars in shopping center parking lots than at churches on the Sabbath Day. I suppose I should have known Thanksgiving Day would suffer a similar fate. “God Bless America,” indeed.
For years, I have said that we should avoid the madness of “Black Friday” shopping sprees. I now declare that we should reject shopping on the day that is rapidly becoming “Black Thursday” formerly known as Thanksgiving Day. (Thursday … Thor’s Day … Isn’t Thor a pagan god? Why do we have days named for pagan gods?). I believe the scriptures give us perspective on how we should approach this day of gratitude for our blessings.
First, let us consider where we are putting our treasures of attention, love, and time. Jesus taught that we should put our treasures where they won’t become moth-eaten, rusty, or stolen. He warns that where our treasures are, our hearts will be also. I remember when, back in the mid to late 1980’s, one of the best gifts one could give a teen-ager was a Sony Walkman Cassette Player. I had a couple of knock-off portable cassette players. Today, the cassette industry is obsolete as young people can choose from a whole library of music from their smart phones. And this is the fate of those who put their attention, love, and time (their treasures) into the things of this world. They become obsolete in the heart. Things that are obsolete are sold cheaply in yard sales and eventually thrown away.
Jesus did not come down from 40 and two generations, die on a cross, and rise again for us to be obsolete. He came so that we may be complete and like Him. In order to be like our Savior, we must do as He commanded, “He who wants to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” Rather than making a mad dash to these “One Day Only So We Can Trample Some Under Paid Retail Worker To Death Sales,” spend some of that Thanksgiving Day down time in prayer and reading scripture. Make a donation to a food bank or soup kitchen. Do something out of love for God and humanity to keep your walk with Jesus current and up to date. Lay up your attention, love, and time (your treasure) in heaven and your heart will always be refreshed in the Holy Spirit.
Let us keep our eye on the good things in life and that are in our lives. One thing about shopping is that we are always looking at stuff. Preferably the best quality, the best price, or both as much as possible. But, we are always looking at clothing, entertainment, furniture, toys, … . As if some how this stuff will add value to our lives. Saving 70% off a fleece lined leather jacket (that was probably marked up by twice that) will keep you warm and it is good to be warm. But a coat does not have a healing character that strengthens you in times of trouble and gives other a better perspective of life. Such a coat may be top quality. It may be sold at a lower than retail price. But to find what is truly good in life, we must look to another source than the Black Thursday and Friday sales events. (Friday … Frey’s Day … yet another pagan god).
In His first response to the rich young ruler who sought to follow Him, Jesus responded, “Why do you call me good? There is no one good except God.” Jesus met the man’s flattery with a message of humility. Always aim for what is more holy, loving, and righteous than yourself. Always seek a greater good than even the good seen in this world. I have a friend that runs a weekend-back pack food program that is one of the most effective in Pittsburgh. He and the volunteers at his program don’t just give them a bag of food to put in their back packs and say, “see you next week.” They ask about how they are doing in school, encourage and help them do better, give “high fives;” they love the children they serve and the kids feel that love and share it in return. “Well, I gotta buy my child a coat.” That is a good thing. There are over 300 days out of the year to buy a coat. Use this one day to show your child how to be thankful for what you all have already been blessed with. That is the greater good that will warm up your character and build a deeper bond of love.
Ultimately, we will have to choose between Thanksgiving or Black Thursday (Thor’s Day). We will have to choose between jealously dedicating the last Thursday of November a time of being grateful for family, friends, and the things we already have. Or, shopping will become our main objective. There is no middle road. The thing that we put our treasures into and set our eyes on will dominate and overtake other concerns. If we choose Black Thursday, the spirit of a pagan hammer will knock out our human senses and turn us into mice going through mazes of big box stores and malls. We will replace meaningful contact with family to text and tweets about what is on sale and where. Our meals will be whatever in the food court rapidly swallowing rather than sitting down to digest and savor. As we grab, push, and snatch at every discount, the cash registers will ring for the corporate merchants at the expense of their employees who earn paychecks at the cost of their family lives and ( in some cases ) very lives in the crush of consumerism.
But when we truly give thanks to God for our families and friends, we are enabled to share joy with one another and deepen our love and commitment. When we are truly thankful for what God has already done for us, we won’t worry so much about all the other things Jones down the road has. In fact, we may even see that we have more than enough and be moved to share with Jones up the road who doesn’t have. Thanksgiving knows no Baptist nor Wesleyan, no Christian nor Muslim nor even Atheist. We can all be grateful and celebrate the day of gratefulness. In particular for those of us who were picked up, turned around and had our feet placed on higher ground. In particular for those of us who stepped in the water and the water was cold with chilled bodies but warmed souls. We can be thankful that Jesus Christ was crucified, trampled down death by his death, rescued us from our sins, and has given us a joy, peace, and love that the world cannot give nor take away!

This entry was posted in Christian Living, Gospel of Matthew, Holiday Season, Jesus, Thanksgiving and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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